City in red by millions

By Jeff Labine
Published: July 26, 2016

The latest budget report is showing the City of Thunder Bay in the red by $3.2 million.
The second year-end variance report presented to councillors on Monday showed the city over budget by roughly 1.4 per cent of the total net budget of $235.1 million. The main causes for the increased expenditures were external legal fees, insurance costs and police activities.
At-Large Coun. Rebecca Johnson called the amount huge and argued that taxpayers are at their limit.
“We got to start looking at our expenses — unexpected or whatever,” she said. “We can’t keep going back to the well. There is no money in the well.”
Mayor Keith Hobbs fired back and argued that crimes like homicides are out of police control to predict.
“I don’t even think they should be in this report,” he said. “We can’t help it if we get our asses sued off either or have to payout large insurance claims. It is the price of doing business.”
Northwood Coun. Shelby Ch’ng suggested setting up a reserve fund for police, which didn’t receive much support.
So far this year, city police have had to deal with a number of standoff situations in addition to investigating four homicides. Police Chief JP Levesque said resources can be used up quickly, especially during the winter months when officers have to be relieved sooner.
“There have been other issues where we had two missing persons (who) were under 12 years old and required extensive ground searches,” he said. “They are really resource intensive. It is difficult to predict if and when those types of things happen. We went from 11 homicides in 2014, to three last year and we’re back up to four this year. It is kind of all over the map and it kind of makes it really difficult to make those kinds of adjustments.”
He said the overtime budget needs to be augmented the same as the wage account, as he believes they are basically the same. He added they will be looking at putting off big projects like the renovations at the Balmoral Street police station to help out.

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